People ‘at risk’ of carbon monoxide poisoning due to lack of awareness

Malcolm Farrow of OFTEC checks his carbon monoxide detector
Malcolm Farrow of OFTEC checks his carbon monoxide detector

Households across Sussex are being urged to check they have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm installed after a survey reveals a lack of awareness of the potential dangers.

Over half of homeowners questioned said they do not have a CO alarm and 60 per cent said they would not recognise headaches, nausea and breathlessness as the key warning signs of potential poisoning, confusing the symptoms with a panic attack or flu.

OFTEC, the trade body for the oil heating industry, has issued advice to households in Sussex on how to stay safe following the results of its survey.

Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, said: “Any heating system where combustion takes place can potentially give off this odourless, colourless gas.

“Whilst oil boilers have a very strong CO safety record, the 21,000 households in Sussex who use oil should not be complacent.

“Unfortunately there are still a large number of households putting themselves at risk.

“Most people wouldn’t think twice about having a smoke alarm installed and households need to take the same approach when it comes to carbon monoxide, especially as the symptoms of potential poisoning can be hard to detect.”

Accidental CO poisoning can be caused when carbon based fuels do not burn properly in faulty or poorly maintained household appliances.

The poisonous gas can cause severe long term health problems and, at worst, death.

It kills over 50 people in the UK every year. Anyone can be affected but younger and older people are most at risk.

OFTEC recommends members of the public purchase an alarm (usually about £20) for any room with a fuel burning appliance including a solid fuel open fire.

It is now mandatory for private sector landlords to provide a CO alarm in rented accommodation where a solid fuel appliance is installed

The trade body says the public should regularly check their CO alarms are working by holding down the ‘test’ button and have heating systems serviced at least once a year by an OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) or GasSafe (for mains gas) registered technician.

If the CO alarm sounds, open the windows and leave the room the alarm is in.

Then contact OFTEC or GasSafe or, if you experience any of the symptoms of CO poisoning, leave the house immediately and call 999.